The unmanned aerial vehicle has become more important in agriculture as regulatory rules get worked out, and users get training. Along with that comes a continuous improvement in the software available to operate these high-flying information-gathering machines. Kittyhawk has announced enhancements to its Flight Deck platform, which works with DJI hardware.
Jon Hegranes, co-founder and CEO of Kittyhawk, explains that the company’s software is the center of drone operations for users. “We focus on how we can unify the aircraft, the mission and data,” Hegranes says. “We have tools for chief pilots, the guy in the office, and mobile apps for the field.”
The key is not only collecting the information, but also working to manage that information in real time in-season, which Hegranes explains is getting easier with updates to the Flight Deck platform.
“What we’re bringing now is an extension of the Flight Deck platform — a secure alternative to DJI software — for the enterprise user,” he says. Essentially, with this new upgrade a Flight Deck user can “share” the screen of an active drone at work with another trusted user on a secure network.
Say your agronomist is in the field scouting with a couple drones. He could reach out to you and offer you a view of the field during flight, no matter where you are. Hegranes explains this is a secure connection — so no hassles with being detected. “One or more people could see what the drone is seeing and help make decisions,” he says.
Bye-bye, SD cards
There’s a bigger picture issue to this latest Flight Deck update - Hegranes doesn’t like secure digital cards from drones. “We’re working to eliminate the SD card,” he says. The information being picked up by the drone’s camera — whether RGB or multispectral — is picked up by the software and can be shared over a tablet, desktop or smartphone. No need to land the drone and take out the card. “We’re sending the information to the cloud, and anyone on that account can join that stream and join that conversation,” he says.
With this Flight Deck upgrade, not only is it possible to see what a drone sees — if you’re allowed in — from anywhere you are, but there’s also a tool for knowing where all drones in a specific fleet are flying.
“That way, the user will know whether all drones are being used properly,” Hegranes says. For example, if one pilot is going higher than allowed, or entering restricted areas, that’s visible through this system.
The Flight Deck system has a range of features, including the ability to see all Flight Deck drones and their locations on a map, if the user opts in. This means that a Kittyhawk software user could see other like-minded users anywhere in the country in real time. Called a common traffic advisory frequency, it allows anyone watching the stream to talk in real time to anyone else watching or flying. This allows for seamless communication for users on the system.
Hegranes explains that the latest release provides Kittyhawk app users — and others that are allowed into a secure account — the ability to see drone data. “Initially, this is for internal teams on a private encrypted stream. But as we build this out, users would be able to share it to other people, not on your account,” he says.
For more information about this upgrade, and the Kittyhawk Flight Deck system, visit kittyhawk.io.